Review Category : National News

Why Cleveland Police Officer Verdict Was Announced Over Holiday Weekend

People march in protest to the Cuddell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed, in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — Cuyahoga County Judge John O’Donnell Saturday acquitted Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in the 2012 shooting deaths of two unarmed people. But why was the decision announced at the start of Memorial Day Weekend?

“The decision to announce the verdict in this high-profile case on a holiday weekend was not made lightly,” Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrative and Presiding Judge John J. Russo said in a statement.

“The prime consideration was to not delay the reading of the verdict any longer than necessary,” the statement added. “While the wait was difficult for many, it was especially hard on the parties involved in the case and their families. Once Judge O’Donnell reached his verdict and finished writing his opinion, he and the Court wanted to let the parties know the decision as quickly as possible.

“It was agreed that by announcing it on a Saturday morning, the potential for downtown traffic issues and the resulting impact on the community could also be lessened,” the statement said.

Russo also wrote: “On this Memorial Day Weekend, we honor and thank those who served our nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms and rights that we enjoy.”

Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, as O’Donnell said he couldn’t determine whether the officer alone fired the fatal shots at the end of a 137-bullet barrage.

O’Donnell ruled that Brelo’s use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable based on how the events unfolded.

“It was reasonable, despite knowing now that there was no gun in the car and he was mistaken about the origin of the gunshots,” he said.

Prosecutors said Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 times into the couple’s car in the November 2012 shooting. The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.

No gun was ever found in the car. Russell and Williams were each shot more than 20 times.

Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he intended to kill Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, alleging that he reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple.

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Missouri Police Shoot, Kill Man Accused of Murder, Kidnapping

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(CLINTON, Mo.) — Police in Missouri say that they shot and killed a convicted sex offender and accused murderer on Saturday after he allegedly threatened officers with a weapon and refused to surrender.

James Horn was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her teenage son. He had also been charged with kidnapping for allegedly keeping the woman confined in a wooden box. Police had been searching for Horn when they encountered him in an abandoned house on Saturday. It was there that Horn threatened officers was shot.

Lynch said Horn was armed and hiding in a closet when police found him.

Clinton, Missouri Police Lieutenant Sonny Lynch said that many in the area are glad the manhunt for Horn is over. “People were fearful of this man and him being at large,” Lynch said, “so I’d say that the sigh of relief is pretty big at this point.”

Still, Lynch said that the whole situation is tragic. Everything, he added, is “overshadowed by the fact that we’ve lost two residents, two people in Clinton, Missouri, tragivally killed by this man, we believe, and so we think about that and our thoughts are with the family.”

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Students Petition Texas High School to Allow Netherlands Exchange Student to Walk at Graduation

Hidde Tuinte is shown in this undated photo. Photo Courtesy: Hidde Tuinte(TAYLOR, Texas) — “Let Hidde walk!”

That’s what Taylor High School students in Texas are demanding on t-shirts, signs and social media after foreign exchange student Hidde Tuinte, 17, said he was recently told by the school that he may not be able to walk at the school’s graduation next Friday because he’s missing required classes.

“It’s been so crazy these past few days,” Tuinte, originally from the Netherlands, told ABC News Saturday. “I feel I have a whole army working for me. I had no idea people liked me this much.”

Tuinte’s host “mother,” Jennifer Lovejoy, told ABC News Saturday that Tuinte is a “boy with a good heart” and that she thinks “it’s wonderful” his friends are supporting him in such an amazing way.

“All he wants is to walk with his friends,” she said. “It’s never been about the diploma. I just want to say, ‘Look, give him a certificate of completion that he’s completed a year here, and let him walk.'”

Lovejoy added that although Tuinte is a senior at the high school in Texas, he still has another year of high school left in the Netherlands before he will go onto college there.

Taylor Independent School District Superintendent Jerry Vaughn said he was “in the process of reviewing this concern” in a statement to ABC News.

“Be assured that Taylor ISD is investigating the situation, the educational records and the concerns of the student,” Vaughn said. “ISD will follow Taylor ISD board policies that address graduation and commencement. All students who have fulfilled the required course work for credits as well as the required state assessments will be allowed to participate in graduation.”

Tuinte said he was working with the school to get his complete transcript from the Netherlands and possibly complete work over the long Memorial Day weekend to make up for the classes he’s missing to assess if he can be allowed to walk at graduation.

Regardless of whether he gets to walk, Tuinte said he’s had a “great experience” in the U.S. and is considering moving here permanently in the future.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to do, and I’ve met a lot of good friends I’ll be coming back to definitely visit,” he said.

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Cleveland Police Officer Found Not Guilty in 2012 Shooting Deaths

Andreyuu/iStock/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) — A judge Saturday deemed a Cleveland police officer not guilty in the shooting deaths of an unarmed couple in 2012, an incident that involved a high-speed chase and a hail of bullets.

Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault for the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. He was visibly emotional as Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O’Donnell read a portion of the verdict in open court.

Prosecutors alleged that Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired a total of 137 bullets into their car in the November 2012 shooting, but O’Donnell ruled that his entire use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable..

The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.

Thirteen officers fired upon the car at the end of the chase, among them Brelo, who prosecutors said shot 15 times into the windshield while standing on the car’s hood when it was stopped.

No gun was ever found in the victims’ car. They were each shot more than 20 times.

Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he intended to kill Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, alleging that he reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple.

Attorneys for Brelo argued that other officers also fired during the final seconds of shooting and that prosecutors couldn’t prove which shots were fatal and when they were fired.

Brelo had pleaded not guilty.

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California Oil Cleanup Expands as US Takes Action Against Pipeline Owner

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(GOLETA, Calif.) — A massive cleanup remained under way on the California shores Friday as a crude-oil slick from a ruptured pipeline covered nearly 10 squares miles of Pacific Ocean and nearly 8 miles of coastline, forcing the closure of beaches and campgrounds just as Memorial Day weekend nears.

“There’s a lot of wildlife out there,” said veterinarian Dr. Christine Fiorelo, who is helping to treat six birds.

The oil leak was first reported around noon Tuesday in southern California. Officials said that up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil had escaped the busted pipeline and that 21,000 gallons had reached the waters off the California shore, which 200 species of animals and birds call home.

“It’s terrible to know that all of that toxic material is out there,” Fiorelo told ABC News. “It’s a very heavy, thick, tarry oil. It’s a hard product to get off.”

Houston, Texas-based Plains All American, the pipeline’s owner, came under fire as the U.S. government took swift and tough action against it Friday.

Plains All American had 175 safety and maintenance violations in the last nine years and paid out more than $24 million in damages, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s records.

Patrick Hodgins, the director of safety and security for Plains, said recently though that “the number of reportable incidents, by percentage, is well within the industry norms.”

The administration said the pipeline had been inspected May 5 through an outside vendor, chosen by Plains All American. It also said today that it had asked the pipeline owner to share the results of that inspection so the administration could see what the pipeline knew before the leak.

A spokesman for the pipeline said Friday’s cleanup efforts had been “productive,” with a total of 145 bins being filled with contaminated oil.

“We continue to focus our efforts on the shoreline and removing the oil there,” said Rick McMichael, the senior director of operations for Plains All American. “We are making good progress although we still have a ways to go.”

Plains All American said it had shut down the flow of oil and McMichael said Friday the pipeline was currently working to excavated the affected section of pipeline.

The administration also ordered the pipeline to suspend operations until the agency deemed it safe to reopen; remove the part of the pipe that had failed in 45 days and have it tested; and purge the line of all remaining oil product.

Officials warned Thursday that there was a potential that far more oil had leaked into the Pacific Ocean through the faulty pipeline.

“California is tremendously well-prepared to deal with these spills, much better than probably anywhere else in the country, and maybe in the world, so that’s fantastic,” veterinarian Fiorelo said on Friday. “But it’s also, of course, very terrible that it has to happen at all.”

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Memorial Day 2015: The Real Story Behind the Holiday

flySnow/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Memorial Day Weekend usually conjures up images of backyard parties, beaches and beer.

But Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer. It’s actually been an official national holiday for over 40 years aimed at remembering those who served in the armed forces.

Here is a brief look at the history behind the holiday and how people are expressing the true meaning of Memorial Day through photos on social media.

A few years after the end of the Civil War, May 30 was established as “Declaration Day” — a day to decorates veterans’ graves with flowers. May 30 may have been the selected day because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

In December 2000, the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.

“The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

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DC Mansion Murders: More Than One Person ‘Required’ to Commit Crime, Affidavit Says

Metropolitan Police Department(WASHINGTON) — A newly unsealed arrest affidavit concludes that the quadruple murder inside a DC mansion “required the presence and assistance of more than one person,” authorities said.

Only one suspect in the murder and ensuing fire has been named publicly.

Daron Wint, 34, was arrested Thursday at 11 p.m. on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington, DC Metropolitan Police said. He is charged with first degree felony murder while armed. Members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force made the arrest. He was arraigned Friday afternoon.

Wint was named by Metropolitan Police as the suspect in the murders after his DNA was found on the crust of a Domino’s pizza that had been delivered to the house, authorities said.

The court documents, meanwhile, describe the charred scene that firefighters responded to on the afternoon of May 14. Firefighters found three unconscious adults in one of the second floor bedrooms, but they found a fourth victim in an adjacent bedroom where the blaze was largely contained, according to the affidavit.

That fourth body was that of 10-year-old Phillip Savopoulos. The medical examiner later determined that the child’s cause of death was thermal and sharp force injuries.

The affidavit states that Phillip Savopoulos “was located on the charred remains/mattress spring of a queen sized bed.”

There were signs at the scene that the fire was set purposefully and the suspects had planned for it to spread further than it had.

Firefighters found “the presence of an ignitable liquid on the stairs and in the room in which the three adults were located. Several matches and a matchbox were found at the top of the stairs,” the affidavit states.

His parents Savvas and Amy Savopoulos were both pronounced dead on the scene. Their housekeeper Verlicia Figueroa, who was found in the same bedroom as the couple, was transported to Georgetown University Hospital though “lifesaving efforts failed and Mrs. Figueroa was pronounced dead,” the report states.

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Dispatch Audio Captures Dramatic Moments After Omaha Officer’s Fatal Shooting

Courtesy of Omahas Mayor Office(OMAHA, Neb.) — The chilling audio recorded in moments after an Omaha police officer was shot in the line of duty this week has been released, and it reveals the frantic efforts to get help for the mortally wounded cop.

Officer Kerrie Orozco, 29, was shot in the chest just above her bullet proof vest on Wednesday while serving a felony warrant and later died from her injuries at Creighton University Medical Center, police said.

“Help an officer! Help an officer!” someone can be heard yelling on the recording of the exchange between officers at the scene and dispatch. The dispatcher then warns other officers the scene wasn’t yet secure.

Orozco was set to go on maternity leave the next day to take care of her newborn daughter, Olivia Ruth, who was born premature and set to be released from the neonatal intensive care unit, authorities told ABC News. Orozco was back to work the week after giving birth to Olivia on Feb. 17, according to officials.

The audio was released by Mean Streets Omaha, a citizen’s group that live-tweets police radio calls in Omaha. The Omaha Police Department did not immediately confirm the authenticity of the recordings to ABC News.

Orozco and two other officers were in pursuit of 26-year-old Marcus D. Wheeler on Wednesday afternoon near 30th Street and Martin Avenue, police said. He was wanted on a felony warrant for first-degree assault from a September 2014 shooting.

When Orozco and another officer pulled up to Wheeler in an unmarked car with lights flashing, Wheeler shot at the officers and then ran, Omaha Police Department Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said on Thursday night, adding new details to how the tragedy unfolded.

When officers caught up with Wheeler, he fired again, and the officers returned fire, Schmaderer said. That’s when Orozco was hit by one of at least six gunshots that Wheeler fired, he said.

Wheeler was shot multiple times before collapsing in a nearby yard, Schmaderer said, and he was later pronounced dead from a lethal gunshot wound to the chest.

In the audio recordings, sirens can be heard in the background while medics report back that two patients are en route to the hospital.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced a vigil for Orozco at 7 p.m. Monday at St. John’s Catholic Church at Creighton University. Her memorial is planned for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. John’s.

The Omaha Police Department has set up a college fund for Olivia that the community can to donate to.

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Florida Teen Shocked By What She Saw in Her Yearbook

Courtesy of Jessica Morales (NAPLES, Fla.) — Jessica Morales, 18, said she was shocked to open her high school yearbook last week to see what she felt is a racially offensive photo depicting the “border patrol” interacting with students in stereotypical costumes.

“It was just really offensive because it kind of belittles the whole issue,” Morales told ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa Bay, Florida, referring to the immigration process that both of her parents are still enduring.

The photo, which was printed on page 96 of the $90 Naples High School yearbook in Naples, Florida, pictured six students dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing mustaches, and one student in a shirt labeled “border patrol.”

Morales’ father, Miguel Morales, told WFTS-TV the image struck him as “really racist,” adding, “I’ve never seen anything like that, I thought it was 2015 and people don’t act like that.”

However, a senior who said she participated in the initial staged snapshots, but was not involved with the “border patrol” part of the photo presented there, told ABC News that she and her friends were just fooling around and no offense was intended. She said they were dressed in the themed attire in order to represent a Mariachi band for “Twin Day” during their high school’s spirit week in October 2014.

“I am Cuban and I don’t find this offensive,” said Sophie Wasmer, 18. “Without a doubt, people wouldn’t even making these comments if it wasn’t because of social media. … Even girls I sit at lunch with are antagonizing us. If she [Morales] knew that six out of the seven of us were Latino, I don’t think she would’ve done that [complained].”

The Collier County Public School District expressed regret that the photo got through its yearbook vetting process.

“The picture in question is from Naples High School’s Spirit week,” the district said in a statement. “The Naples High yearbook staff has a vetting process for which all content is reviewed. If anyone on the yearbook team finds a picture questionable, the yearbook sponsor brings it forward to Naples High Principal Kevin Saba. That regrettably did not happen in this case.”

In the statement, Saba added, “We regret if any Golden Eagle student, parent, or community member found it offensive. It was certainly not our intent.”

Wasmer said she was surprised to learn via Twitter that the photo was causing so much controversy.

“It looks like we were ‘Crossing the border, being Mexican,’ and that’s not how we wanted it interpreted,” Wasmer said. “Our intention was never to offend anyone. … I’m not really angered by it, but I just want to get over it, pretty much. It was just blown out of proportion.”

Morales said she hoped to enter into a career that combats what she feels is offensive behavior, such as the yearbook image.

“It would be amazing to do that,” Morales told WFTS-TV. “To … make an impact on the world because there is so much inequality in it. It would be awesome to make a change.”

Morales did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for additional comment.

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Sea Lion Pup Wanders Into a Bar, Gets Carded

Courtesy Michael Armstrong(NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.) — A sea lion walks into a bar.

This isn’t the set-up to a joke, it happened in real life in Newport Beach, California, last week when a pup waddled in to “grab a beverage,” according to manager Sonia Warner.

But the Beach Ball Bar on Balboa Peninsula refused service to the little guy on May 12.

“We’re very careful not to serve alcohol to minors and he clearly wasn’t above the drinking age,” Warner joked.

The bartender and two customers tried to use bar stools to keep the sea lion outside the bar, but Warner said he wandered in and out for almost two hours. “He had a gash on his back and a little eye problem but he was happy doing his own thing,” Warner told ABC News.

The Newport Beach Animal Control workers took the pup to the vet and he was cleared to be released about 35 miles south, in San Clemente.

That didn’t stop him from making it back to Newport Beach the next day.

This time, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center took him in and appropriately named him Beach Ball, Warner said, noting that the center is treating him for an eye infection and “fattening him up.”

Warner went to visit Beach Ball last week and said the center has about 125 sea lion pups they’re taking care of.

“They told me Beach Ball isn’t alone in being a starving pup,” said Warner. “Apparently the water is so warm it’s making the food deeper. The moms are abandoning their pups.”

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center plans to release Beach Ball back to the wild when he’s healthier.

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